Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Clashes in Bangladesh leave 11 dead

AP , DHAKA

Activists from Bangladesh's main opposition party alliance shout slogans during a protest in Dhaka, yesterday. Bangladesh's government postponed transferring power to a caretaker administration as one person died in clashes between supporters of rival political parties and police, officials said.

PHOTO: AFP

A caretaker government to oversee Bangladesh's upcoming polls will be installed by tonight, an opposition leader said after meeting with the president, hinting at an end to a political crisis that has fueled deadly riots.

At least 11 people were killed and hundreds were injured in two days of violence after the opposition refused to accept a retired chief justice invited to lead the interim government.

"A new government will be installed by Sunday evening," Abdul Jalil, general secretary of the main opposition Awami League party, told reporters after meeting with Bangladeshi President Iajuddin Ahmed and Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, an outgoing government minister.

Zia's government invited K. M. Hasan to lead Bangladesh until the general election due in January. However, Hasan yesterday declined the offer, presidential spokesman Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury told reporters.

"Former chief justice K. M. Hasan has expressed his inability to become the head of the caretaker government," Chowdhury said. He didn't elaborate.

The opposition alliance refused to accept Hasan as the leader of the interim government saying he once belonged to the party of outgoing Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and therefore cannot be impartial as required under the Constitution.

"We have agreed to a caretaker government headed by some one else but K. M. Hasan," Jalil said.

Jalil earlier said the opposition would accept another former chief justice, Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury, as leader of the interim administration.

Late on Friday the government announced a delay in handing power to the caretaker authority, saying Hasan had been taken sick -- a claim the opposition alliance debunked.

"We don't believe K. M. Hasan is sick ... we have information from his close sources that he is unwilling to take over as the head of the caretaker administration," opposition spokesman Jalil said.

There was no word from Hasan, 67, who was in his Dhaka home, guarded by elite security forces. He has declined to meet or speak to the media.

At least five people died -- including three politicians belonging to Zia's four-party coalition -- and more than 100 were injured on Friday in widespread violence sparked by Zia's choice of Hasan to lead a caretaker government.

The violence continued yesterday, with riot police firing tear gas, rubber bullets and warning shots in the air to disperse thousands of stone-throwing protesters in the capital, Dhaka.

Two people died in violence in downtown Dhaka yesterday, the United News of Bangladesh agency reported. One person died in southeastern Chittagong and another in northern Kurigram district, the agency said without providing details.

Also, two members of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party were shot dead in central Narsingdi district, the agency said.

At least 300 more people were injured yesterday, the agency said.

Zia, meanwhile, at a rally in downtown Dhaka, restated her pledge to hand power to the caretaker government, but did not say when.

She criticized the opposition for creating anarchy and asked her supporters to retaliate.

Angry mobs smashed or burned vehicles and Zia's party offices, along with tires and furniture looted from nearby shops.

Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, was virtually cut off from the rest of the country as thousands of protesters blocked highways leading to it, TV footage showed.

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